Callum Henderson recently visited Uganda and Burundi on a Pastor’s teaching and training trip, and also visited our partners in both countries, as well as the Street Kids’ Rescue Projects in Burundi. Below is his report of the trip.
Over the first two weeks it was a great blessing to be able to share with our partners in Uganda and Burundi. I went first to Uganda to teach the Comfort International Ministry School (CIMS) module on marriage family and sex, as well as to take a two day marriage retreat. We work alongside our partners Life Edifying Ministries Africa which is led by the wonderful Wejuli Fred (shown in video on right reporting on the training trip and thanking supporters), a church leader whose passion for church leaders to be equipped, whose organisational ability and whose grace and humility continue to inspire us. Busia, where the training takes place, is right on the border with Kenya and so is around a five hour journey from the airport. All in all it took just over 48 hours travel from door to door to get there.
On the Monday morning I was at the LEMA prayer gathering, an inspiring time of prayer for the church and the training, and then the training began on the Tuesday with around 65 – 70 church leaders – mainly pastors and evangelists with some choir leaders etc. also present. The training takes place in a local church with many of the attendees sleeping in the church at night. Comfort International covers the costs of food and any expenses incurred by the training such as mattresses, printing, and support for communication etc. but the local churches do all the cooking and keep costs as low as possible. It works out around £25 per person per week to run the training.
The teaching on marriage, gender and sex is crucial in a culture where polygamy is very common and immorality within church leadership is of considerable concern. We had numerous questions about real-life challenging situations that the pastors are dealing with in their own churches and lives in this area. Other relevant issues are that of singleness which is often seen as a no-no if you want to be a church leader, relationships between husbands and wives which can be very utilitarian and empty of love, and pastoral issues to do with divorce & remarriage, infertility and contraception. The students were very engaged with the teaching and involved in discussing the issues and practical out-workings of the Scriptures.
On the Friday and Saturday there was a marriage retreat and I was joined by my wife, Izzy, online on the Saturday. We were not sure what teaching a marriage retreat from 4000 miles apart signified but it seemed to work! Again the response was very positive – we had asked people to come as married couples and many did that. There were many many comments about the benefits of the retreat and we very much believe marriages were enriched and transformed by God’s touch upon those attending. It was wonderful to see couples beginning to open up and communicate with each other over the two days.
After that it was on to Burundi, again for CIMS, this time at the town of Ngozi where our partner Gerard Rukerandanga (left) of the Elim Church in Ngozi has brought the pastors of the area together for the CIMS training. Over the last couple of years Gerard has increasingly felt burdened for the Batwa community just outside the town. The Batwa are also sometimes known as pygmies and live in extremely poor communities with rudimentary shelters and food shortages. We visited the community on the Monday where there are around 200 Batwa families and they were welcoming, enthusiastic and engaged with options for support, resulting in the initiation of a programme of support involving cattle and crops.
The CIMS training covered the marriage, family and sex module again but also took in servant leadership and money. These areas compose the money, sex and power character unit in the training. Culture and hardship can create a temptation for the ministry to be a route to power/influence and wealth and so the two topics of servant leadership and money were deeply interesting to the students. Again, the marriage module proved really helpful with attendees testifying to immediate radical changes in their marriage relationships when they put the teaching into practice after the first of the two days we did on the subject.
The last part of the trip involved a day in Bujumbura with Claude Hakizimana our partner there, as well as David Gasana who travelled down from Kigali in Rwanda so that the three of us could work at the project together. The project has faced challenges over the last couple of years but I was heartened and impressed to see the marked change and difference the project was making. Claude has organised teams from parents/relatives of the children to get involved in the project and to develop income-generating activities to help move the families towards reintegration and self-sustainability and it was noticeable how the income generating projects had impacted positively on their lives especially through agriculture. As one of the mothers said when describing their farming activities, ‘we are professionals!’. There is still a long way to go but it is good to see this progress.
So, all in all, it was a very worthwhile trip!